Initially, the new 2016 Honda Pilot did not win me over. It came to us straight after the Toyota Highlander, and the first impressions did not stack up to the Highlander. HOWEVER – in the Pilot’s defense, I had just come off of a long road trip with the Highlander. And after spending some time with the Pilot & getting some miles behind it – the Pilot grew on me quite a bit. By the end of our 10-days together, it had me wanting to be a soccer dad. The point is: sometimes 1 quick test drive with a strang-salesman in the passenger seat isn’t enough. I would honestly recommend going to check out & test drive BOTH the Highlander and the Pilot (twice) if you’re in the market for a great, roomy, smart people mover. Then make your own decision… and know that either choice is solid & smart. But just be aware that it might take a few more miles to see the Pilot’s inner light shine through. It’s there though.
First Impressions: Both cars are a soothing, comfortable place to be. Both have all the modern conveniences & amenities at your fingertips.
But the interior space in the Pilot seemed a little larger to me. And in fact – the Pilot is a little bit larger, with 171cu.ft volume versus the Highlander’s 158cu.ft. So if you’re looking for the biggest option, the Pilot is up there. However, despite the numbers, my wife ‘felt’ like the Highlander had just as much room if not more. I mention that – because ‘feel’ is important. It’s not only about how much space a vehicle has… but also how well that space is used. Also – what’s the tradeoff in maneuverability? The interior room of the Pilot & Highlander felt almost identical in the front & rear seats… but the rear cargo & 3rd row area of the Pilot was a bit more spacious. And if you look at the body of the Pilot, it seems apparent – with a larger overhang behind the rear wheels.
In fact – the entire body of the 2016 Honda Pilot is pretty huge. Our test Pilot came with 20-inch wheels… and they were absolutely swallowed up by the Pilot’s large body mass. From the front, the 2016 Honda Pilot looks attractive, edgy, & distinctive… and then you move to the side and it turns into a blimp.
Gas milage is an area where the Pilot shines. Despite it’s bigger size, it still manages to edge-out the Highlander by about 2 miles-per-gallon in real world application. This is most likely in part to the Pilot’s available 9-speed automatic transmission, which keeps the RPMs low at highway cruising speeds… yet allows it to move-out when you put the pedal down. The 2016 Honda Pilot makes 280hp and 262ft-lbs torque. To put it in perspective, that’s enough. Actually – it’s pretty impressive to see a Honda’s torque numbers fall in that closely behind it’s horsepower numbers. As a car guy, the Honda Pilot brought a smile to my face as I heard the V6 hit the sweet sound of vtec at that 5,000rpm mark. And I couldn’t help but think about how this thing would look/sound if it was modified a little bit.
Honda’s infotainment system (screen) in the Pilot seems to be a little less intuitive than the Highlander, although I’m sure you would become accustomed to it with time. On the flip-side, the Pilot’s Navigation seems to be MORE intuitive… working quickly & predictively to get you on your way. I was a big fan of the navigation. The screen & buttons are all gloss-smooth to the touch – similar to a tablet. Our infotainment screen already had a decently gnarly scratch on it though. But nothing against Honda there – because a lot of automotive reviewers can be rough on cars… it’s just worth mentioning so you don’t let kids + sharp things get too close while you’re pumping gas.
Our test Pilot has a huge 2-section panoramic moonroof, AND a flip-down roof-mounted TV screen for rear seat passengers. The front seats are comfortable, with captain’s style armrests that fold down. At first I didn’t like the fold-down armrest (reminded me of dad’s old Suburban). But then I did like ‘em when I realized that my wife never complained about me hogging the entire armrest… because we didn’t have to share. So thank you Honda – good lookin’ out!
All in all, the 2016 Honda Pilot is going to make a lot of families happy & worry-free for a long time. The exterior might be easy to lose in a parking lot, and the interior won’t silence a room with lavish beauty. But the car is attractive & modern enough to make you feel good. You can tell that the Pilot’s interior was built to withstand family life… and keep it’s appearance up for many years to come. And Honda is historically really good at using the perfect color of textured materials, that will blend-away scratches, wear, & tear (notice the darker carpet & door panels even with a lighter-color overall interior).